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THE PRESENT PERFECT IN ENGLISH
We use the present perfect to speak about things which happened or began to happen
in the past and which are linked to the present or future.
It is often used with adverbs such as just, already, ever and yet and with time phrases
with for and since if the span of time .
Present perfect with just /already
Just often means nearness the present, so it is often used with the present perfect.
Already suggests that something has happened sooner than perhaps expected
and again is linked with present time and therefore the present perfect:
∑ Do you want me to make the salad for supper tonight?
~ I've already made it. It's on the table. THIS IS A RESULT.
Iíve just spoken to Jane. She's not joining us for supper tonight. THIS IS NEWS.
(Americans use the past with just.)
Present perfect with yet / ever / never / always
These indefinite time adverbs suggest at any time up till now,
so they are ideally suited for use with the present perfect:
∑ Have you ever driven a car with automatic drive?
~ No, I never have. I've always driven cars with manual drive.
~ It's not too hard. You'll soon get used to it.
∑ I don't think you've met Brigid yet, have you?
~ No, I haven't. I've met many friends from work, but I have not met Brigid yet.
~ She's absolutely lovely. I'm sure you'll like her.
Notice how in these examples the present perfect is linked to the future
as well as the present.
Present perfect with no indefinite time adverb
Note that we often use the present perfect with no indefinite time adverb, even though we are thinking of a period of time up to the present. In the following examples, yet is understood but not used:
- Have you seen Fahrenheit 911? It's fantastic!
- Has anybody had any news about She was taken to hospital earlier today.
Present perfect with since / for (SEIT)
If we want to measure duration up to the present, we use the present perfect.
We use for with a span of time or period
since with the beginning of an event:
- I've been learning Greek for two years now, and I can already speak it quite well.
- We've lived in Edinburgh for over ten years - ever since April 1994 to be precise.
- They've known Jennifer since she was two years old.
- Nobody has seen Emily since she emigrated to America two years ago.
Present perfect continuous with since and for
Since and for are very often used with the present perfect continuous even when something
is not seen as provisional. The Ėing form stresses the on-going nature of the activity:
- How long have you been working for your bank?
~ I've been working for them since I finished my professional training.
- I'm out of work. Didn't you know?
I have been looking for a job since last Christmas, but I can't seem to find anything.
Note that with static verbs, i.e. verbs which describe a state rather than an action,
verbs such as agree, consider, feel, find, know, like, love, prefer,
the continuous form is not normally used, even if the continuous, on-going aspect is stressed:
- I've agreed to teach my younger brother to drive a car..
- We've known Ronan ever since we were students in Dublin.
- Iíve always liked doing my shopping at the supermarket.
- But I've felt for some time now that I might just as well by fruit, vegetables and eggs from our farmers in the village.
© 2004 R. WYSS